Black Mirror fans received a nice holiday present Friday when Netflix released an interactive film, Bandersnatch. If you’re a fan of the dark, twisty, technology-based series and choose-your-own-adventure stories, then this may be a dream come true.
Light spoilers for Black Mirror: Bandersnatch below.
The Netflix film follows a young programmer, Stefan (Fionn Whitehead) who questions reality as he creates a video game based on a book, Bandersnatch by Jerome F. Davies in 1984. Is he losing his mind? (Watch the trailer above.)
The streaming service released a promo (below) that offers a look at the choose-your-own-adventure options of the film.
You’ll have to see it through to the end. We’ve placed visual aids in your eye line, which might help if you get into trouble. The suggestion we’re getting from psychologists is that you should take as long as you need. If you rush, it might be misinterpreted as eagerness or even enjoyment. You’ll have to see it through to the end.
It ends with Stefan saying, “I should try again.”
And that is an option; you can choose to try again and make a different choice.
Depending on the choices you make throughout the film — some are as simple as what Stefan has for breakfast — you may end up at one of the five endings. If you play straight through and don’t change your mind, Bandersnatch may only be 40 minutes long, while the average viewer will spend an hour and a half watching it, according to Variety.
Playing through Bandersnatch will give you multiple options to end the story at an obvious stopping point (the credits may even start to roll) or return to an important decision and try again. Eventually, you’ll reach a definitive ending and it will really be over.
The story also features trillions of variations thanks to lots of small decisions (like what music you should listen to) that don’t really affect the plot. Instead, these choices are meant to keep the viewer engaged so they’re prepared to make an important decision when the time comes.
But it almost never happened because the creators of Black Mirror, Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones, weren’t sold on the idea at first. Brooker said “No f—ing way!” and Jones thought it “felt a bit gimmicky,” they told Variety as part of an interview detailing the complex process of creating the interactive adventure. Their minds changed when they came up with the story they wanted to tell for Bandersnatch.
“We want [viewers] to have a successful choice early on,” Netflix director of product innovation Carla Engelbrecht explained about choosing Stefan’s breakfast.
“Going down various branches opens up other potentials, so you may not reach certain things depending on the decisions you make,” Jones said to The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s not a simple branching narrative with lots of binary choices — they are all changing your state and what’s open to you.”
One fan’s response after watching the film demonstrates just that. They tweeted that they didn’t see some of the moments from the trailer, and the Black Mirror Twitter account responded, “Try again.”
“You are making a decision at that point about your protagonist and what they have to do,” Jones told THR. “If it wasn’t interactive, you’d just watch and probably be appalled and worried and frightened for him in that moment. If you’re making that decision, how does that affect your relationship with the film? Do you then feel more wretched?”
The creator also told said that viewers should choose to continue making choices, not begin the process again once they reach one of the endings. “The character learns things through different branches that then allows them to have a different experience moving forward and leads them to a different emotional conclusion,” she explained.
Because of the choose-your-own-adventure nature of the film, Netflix must store more than one path’s worth of content, which means you can’t watch Bandersnatch on every device on which you can stream the service, according to Variety. (If you watch Netflix on an older smart TV, Google’s Chromecast, or Apple TV, you’re out of luck.)
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is now streaming on Netflix.
Related video: 5 Times Black Mirror Reflected Reality